My mate Bram is the hardest of hardcore Porsche-philes. For him, Porsche ceased to exist 20 years ago when the 911 switched from air to water cooling. He once sent me a scan of a press ad for the Panamera E-Hybrid, and seriously questioned the meaning of life in his accompanying note.
So, you can imagine his confusion when, in 2002, what he refers to as “the company formerly known as Porsche” produced the Cayenne SUV.
Then, just over three years ago, the decision-makers in Zuffenhausen doubled down on the whole SUV thing, unveiling a mid-size five-seater called the Macan.
Bram remains in occasional therapy, but there’s no doubting the new car’s success. It was far and away Porsche’s biggest seller in Australia in 2017, with nearly two-and-a-half thousand finding homes here; that number more than doubling the brand’s next best result, for, you guessed it, the Cayenne.
About a year ago, Porsche launched this entry-level model, the Macan. That’s just M-A-C-A-N on the boot. No S, no GTS, no Turbo. And to help get to an $80,110 price-point (easily the cheapest way into a Porsche in this country), Porsche has slipped a relatively humble 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet.
So, is the ‘base’ Macan experience a truly Porsche one, or that of a posh SUV with a go-fast badge?
Porsche Macan 2018: (base)
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Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
The Macan is substantial, but not huge. About the same size as an Audi Q5 (they sit on the same platform), with echoes of the iconic 911 all around the car, from the raked headlights to the broad hipline and slimline tail-lights.
Carefully controlled curves and contours deliver balanced proportions and a solid, confident stance. And sharp eyes will pick up the ‘base’ car’s side window trim strips in black, and similarly darkened brake calipers sitting behind the standard 19-inch ‘Macan Turbo’ alloy rims.
The Macan comes standard with 19-inch ‘Macan Turbo’ alloy rims. (image credit: James Cleary)
They’re the same wheels fitted to the S model, one rung further up the Macan ladder, and fill the muscular guards nicely.
Like all Porsches, the Macan exudes quality in everything from its design, to the fit, the finish, even the feel of things like the switchgear, seats (leather and Alcantara), and steering wheel.
The interior doesn’t follow the current trend towards tablet-style control for major functions. Yes, there’s a slick screen-based multimedia interface, but it’s relatively small (7.0-inch), and old school switches and knobs dominate the dash and main console. Basically, a button-fest.
The interior doesn’t follow the current trend towards tablet-style control for major functions. (image credit: James Cleary)
It’s a familiar, traditionally Porsche approach, and won’t appeal to everybody. But the design and engineering effort that’s been put into how they all work is obvious, and makes you feel like you’re sitting inside a Swiss watch.
Add top-shelf trim materials and premium metal finishes, and the result is a first class (as in, front of the plane) environment. Always a subjective call, but I for one, like it a lot.
The irony of the Macan purchase decision is the car appeals to people who admire Porsche’s racing and sports car heritage and love the idea of a 911 or 718, but actually need the practicality of five seats and a big boot. So, they’re buying into the agile, lightweight sports car brand dream by purchasing a 1.8-tonne SUV.
But it’s the cash rolling in from the sale of these SUVs that funds the ongoing development of Porsche’s more focused, high-performance machinery. And fact is, the Macan does a multitude of practical things with typical Teutonic proficiency.
Along with all the ‘controls’, Porsche has managed to integrate a useful amount of storage for front seat occupants, including a generous glove box (with cooler), a lidded box between the seats (housing a USB port, ‘aux-in’ socket, and 12-volt power outlet), and big door bins with enough room for large bottles. There are two decent-size cupholders in the console… even a cigarette lighter (naughty!).
Slip into the back seat, and there’s heaps of head and legroom on offer. I was able to sit behind the driver’s seat set for my 183cm position with lots of space in front of the knees and above the bonce. And there’s enough shoulder room to accommodate three full-size adults for short to medium journeys, without too much discomfort.
Slip into the back seat, and there’s heaps of head and legroom on offer. (image credit: James Cleary)
There are two cupholders in the fold-down rear armrest, map pockets on the front seatbacks, sizable door bins (again, able to hold big bottles), twin air vents (with temp and flow control), and a USB outlet.
With the rear seats upright cargo space runs to 500 litres, enough to accommodate our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), or the CarsGuide pram, with lots of room to spare.
Fold down the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat, and that figure grows to a healthy 1500 litres, with a storage recess under the floor adding extra, out of sight space.
With the rear seats upright cargo space runs to 500 litres. (image credit: James Cleary)
Fold down the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat, and storage grows to a healthy 1500 litres. (imag credit: James Cleary)
The boot has enough space to accommodate our three-piece hard suitcase set. (image credit: James Cleary)
The hands-free ‘smart tailgate’ function is welcome when your hands are full, and hardware in the back includes four tie-down shackles, a pair of compartment lights, multiple bag hooks, and a netted pocket on the driver’s side (including a first aid kit). The spare is a racy red 18-inch space-saver.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
This Macan may be the entry-point to Porsche’s Australian range, but there’s plenty of standard fruit on board including leather trim with Alcantara inserts, 10-speaker audio (with digital radio, internal hard drive and two SD card readers), three-zone climate control, and auto parking.
You can also expect the latest generation version of the ‘Porsche Communication Management’ (PCM) multimedia system, with a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen and voice control, providing access to navigation, mobile phone connectivity, and audio interfaces including Apple CarPlay.
The Macan comes with the ‘Porsche Communication Management’ (PCM) multimedia system, with a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen. (image credit: James Cleary)
On top of all that, you’ll pick up cruise control, eight-way power adjustable front seats (with memory for the driver), a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel, LED DRLs and tail-lights (although the headlights are bi-xenon rather than LED), rain-sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, and a bunch of active safety tech covered in the safety section below.
Our test vehicle was fitted with three options: a sports exhaust system with black tailpipes ($5390), ‘Agate Grey’ metallic paint ($1990), and an ambient interior ‘Comfort’ lighting package ($720).
In the VW Golf GTI Edition 1 this unit produces 180kW from 5000-6200rpm, and 370Nm from 1600-4300rpm. And under the Macan’s bonnet, those numbers shift only slightly to 185kW from 5000-6800rpm, and 370Nm, available between 1600-4500rpm.
The four-cylinder turbo engine produces 185kW/370Nm. (image credit: James Cleary)
The engine features direct injection and the ‘VarioCam Plus’ cam and valve timing system, sending drive through a seven-speed ‘PDK’ dual-clutch transmission (with paddle shifters) to all four wheels via the ‘Porsche Traction Management’ (PTM) active all-wheel drive system, incorporating an electronically-controlled multi-plate clutch, automatic limited-slip differential (ABD) and traction-slip control (ASR).
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Porsche’s claimed fuel economy for the combined (urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.4L/100km, the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol emitting 172g/km of CO2 in the process. Start-stop is standard.
That’s pretty handy for an SUV of this scale, the only snag being we recorded 11.6L/100km (at the bowser) over 355km of city, suburban and freeway running.
Be prepared to shell out for the required premium 98RON unleaded, too, and you’ll need 75 litres of it to fill the tank.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
It might measure 4.7m long and tip the scales at 1770kg, but if you think the Porsche badge is just for show, you’re wrong. The Macan is quick, nimble, and sounds good.
Porsche claims this turbo four-cylinder will sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.7sec (6.5 with ‘Sport Chrono’ package), which is agreeably swift, and while power isn’t huge (185kW) and peaks high in the rev range (5000-6800rpm), maximum torque (370Nm) is available from just 1600rpm all the way to 4500rpm.
So, the big five-seater get up and runs, with the seven-speed dual-clutch keeping things in the mid-range sweet-spot, with the wheel-mounted paddles delivering crisp and positive manual shifts along the way. And our car’s optional sports exhaust dialled up the blurty pops and bangs accompanying high rpm up and downshifts.
Not only that, Sport mode sharpens up the gear shifts and throttle response, and amplifies the exhaust note even further.
Porsche claims this turbo four-cylinder will sprint from 0-100km/h in 6.7sec.
The electro-mechanical rack and pinion steering is direct without being overly sharp; a mix of great road feel, quick turn-in and linear response.
The tricky active all-wheel drive system typically sends all drive to the rear, but can send all of it to the front if required. Even on an enthusiastic backroad blast it puts the Macan’s power down with fuss-free confidence.
And at this point it’s worth pointing out the sports front seats are grippy and supportive, while the classic three dial instrument cluster (with multi-function digital screen in the right-hand circle) is crystal clear.
Big disc brakes (335mm front, 330mm rear) are ventilated all around, with four-piston alloy calipers at the front and single-piston floating calipers at the rear. They consistently wash off speed with a progressive pedal and reassuring power.
At the front of the Macan is four-piston alloy calipers. (image credit: James Cleary)
This combination of buttoned-down body control, smooth ride, and exceptional dynamic response can only be achieved by a car company that knows what it’s doing.
Hit the off-road button if you’re keen on getting those shiny wheels dirty and the default drive split changes seamlessly to 50/50.
Porsche quotes a maximum clearance of 300mm “between ground and water-sensitive parts”, and an outright ground clearance of 185mm.
And if you’re really serious, the approach angle is 17.9 degrees, ramp over is 15.3deg, and the departure angle is 23.6deg.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 7/10
Most of the important active safety tech boxes are ticked, with ABS, EBD, ESC, ASR, lane-departure warning, rollover mitigation, a reversing camera, tyre pressure monitoring, adaptive brake lights (flash automatically in hard braking) and trailer stability control included. But AEB’s going to cost you $2990 extra as part of the optional adaptive cruise control pack.
When it comes to passive safety, all Macans are fitted with front and side airbags for the driver and front seat passenger, with side airbags also in the rear, and curtain airbags covering both rows.
There are three top tethers for child seats across the back, with ISOFIX anchors in the two outer positions.
ANCAP hasn’t rated the Macan, but its EuroNCAP affiliate awarded the car a maximum five stars when it was tested in 2014.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
The Macan is covered by Porsche’s three year/unlimited km warranty, with paint covered for the same period, and a 12-year (unlimited km) anti-corrosion warranty thrown in for good measure.
Porsche Roadside Assist provides 24/7/365 coverage for the life of the warranty, and after the warranty runs out is renewed for 12 months every time the vehicle is serviced at an authorised Porsche dealer.
The main service interval is 12 months/15,000km, and indicative scheduled costs for the first four years/60,000km line up as follows: 12 months/15,000km (annual) - $695, 24 months/30,000km (intermediate) - $995, 36 months/45,000km (annual) - $695, and 48 months/60,000km (major) - $1750.
A brake fluid flush is recommended every two years at an additional cost of $270.
“At around $80k this entry-point to the Macan line-up delivers in terms of equipment, practicality, and quality. And importantly, it looks, feels and drives like a Porsche should. It’s fast, light on its feet, and beautifully put together. Sorry, Bram.”
Is the Macan a real Porsche? Tell us what you think in the comments below.